BetteBack November 14, 1973: Bette: Acetylene Torch Singer

Pittsburgh Post Gazette
November 14, 1973


An extremely keyed-up Midler-of-the-road crowed turned out Sunday night at the Syria Mosque to rant and rave over the antics of Bette Midler, who gave as energetic a performance as is humanly impossible.

The short redhead with the hatchet profile devastated the audience not only with her singing and her campy theatrics, but also with her interactions with the backup vocal trio known as The Harlettes, who look just like the girls next door (if you live next to a massage parlour.)

Bette could do no wrong as far as this crowd was concerned. Every joke was met with gales of laughter. Every semi-serious comment resulted in wild applause. Every song received a thunderous ovation. When she got serious, the silence was deafening. I think a burp would have netted her a hand.

The crowed didn’t even seem to mind that Bette was in very poor voice, which could have been (a) a cold (b) Pittsburgh air (c) she is straining her vocal cords. I think the answer is (c) because one doesn’t have to be overly perceptive to realize Bette often uses her voice like Jungle Jim used a machete, and if she doesn’t settle down a bit she might end up communicating in sign language.

Her show proved that the lady is one of the flashiest, exciting, hard working performers on the circuit today, not to mention that she absolutely adores what she does – as well as the fans who come to be bowled over by her talent.

Among the numbers drawing the biggest responses were “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” and “Chapel of Love.” Disappointing was her rendition of the John Prine tune, “Hello in There,” which she seemed to rush through. Her live performance of that lament of old age was not even close to the quality of her recorded version of it.

Bette’s performance this year was a bit raunchier than her show last year – both verbally and visually – and a bit more theatrical. But I still think her previous act at the Mosque was better because she spent more time in the role of song stylist and less in the role of comedienne.

Barry Manilow, Bette’s conductor and Bell recording artist, also performed several original tunes while the star of the show was talking a costume change. He managed to capture the ears of nearly everyone in the house – no mean feat at a Midler concert.

The pianist-vocalist-composer has a very engaging stage personality and his compositions are strong both lyrically and melodically.

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